Hiking in Seorakson, South Korea

We left Seoul on a sunny Friday morning after a kimbap (Korean sushi which often has tuna salad or cheese in it) with MoonSook and Bob. I was sad to say good-bye to both of them but really happy to get back on the road and move a little quicker. Ten days in one place (with bad weather) seemed a little too long, even in a place like Seoul. Our first stop, Seorakson National Park was a mere two hours bus ride Northeast from Seoul, very close to the border between North and South Korea and the closest we would come to this strange isolated neighbor to their North. We based ourselves in the nearby town Sokcho which was just a pleasant 30 minute bus ride from the gate of the national park. Korea has over 17 National Parks in it’s tiny land mass but we chose Seorakson because it’s one of the largest and most beautiful with a variety of hikes, temples, statues, caves and other diversions, not to mention Ulsanbawi which is a mountain that you can hike in one day with an awesome summit. It’s not the highest peak in the park, but is one of the most beautiful. The highest peak in the park is currently closed from the entrance we took to the park so it can restore it’s trail.

Upon arriving in Sokcho, we checked into the  “The House” hostel where we had a nice double room with our own bathroom and the best feature, a big steel bathtub! We hadn’t had a tub in so long, especially in S. Korea where most of the bathrooms have no shower or tub to speak of but rather a drain in the center of the floor and a shower head attached to some random wall and since there’s no curtain or stall, everything in the bathroom gets soaked so you have to hide the toilet paper or anything you don’t want to get wet. It’s not too bad, but the steel bath tub was heaven. The owner of the hostel is one of the nicest I have ever come across. His name is Mr. Yoo and he was more gentle than a baby kitten. He gave us a map upon arrival and showed us where everything was, told us about the bus system, how to get to the park, what beaches to go too and told us about his favorite sushi buffet. He runs a wonderful place with kitschy art work and one of the most gorgeous kitchens I have ever eaten breakfast in. So, if ever in Sokcho, stay the “The House” because Mr. Yoo offers cheap, clean rooms with a level of hospitality that it’s hard to get even in the states.

After we relaxed in our room for a bit, we went a couple doors down to a traditional Korean restaurant. We were a little apprehensive because we have been lucky enough to have someone who speak enough Korean with us to alert the restaurant staff of our vegetarianism, but this time we were on our own. We made the X sign with our fingers which mostly means “No” here and told the owner “Gogi anyo” which means no meat and to our surprise, she nodded and walked away. She brought over the side dishes that you receive at every meal in Korean restaurants. She brought about 10 over and it was some really delicious ones that we hadn’t tried yet. Then she brought over two delicious hot pots of spicy tofu stew that strangely had beans in the bottom. I’m still thinking about it. The only problem with liking a dish is you have no way of reordering it again if you don’t speak the language and can’t read the menu in the first place. After rolling ourselves out of the restaurant, we went to bed early to awake and head to the national park.

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The next morning, we awoke to the rainy drizzle of South Korea’s monsoon season but decided to brave it to the National Park anyway. We took the bus and most of the mountains were shrouded in mist and it was actually stunning. Ellie even said she normally finds traditional Asian art cheesy but after seeing the green mountains peeking out behind the clouds and bad weather, she understood where the artists got their inspiration. Our plan was to hike Ulsanbawi, but the bad weather made us nervous, so we opted for an easier hike first to see if the weather would clear. We decided to hike 3km to a waterfall which was described as a medium climb. The hike wasn’t too hard, just wet and slippery on rocks which made the 3k go by a lot slower, as we had to make sure we had footing every time before we stepped down. The hike was nice though, even with the bad weather. The only major downer was that the main waterfall was weirdly not at the end of the trail. The trail ended and we could hear the waterfall but to see it we’d have to hike nearly vertical and scramble rocks on an unmarked path that were so slippery we almost fell just resting against them. So, we gave up and were satisfied with the falls we got to see along the way.

DSC_0373Notice the waterfall forming on the stairs. Not a good sign before starting a hike.

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Afterwards, we took the bus into the main town and hit up the sushi buffet that Mr. Yoo had suggested for 5USD we could eat all the sushi and sashimi we wanted which was really good, plus salad with wasabi dressing, cold spicy Korean noodles, soup and fried fish. It was a bargain and I wish we had one at home. It was all so healthy and delicious. We walked back to the hostel and just relaxed, watching any English TV show we could find on the television.

The next day, we returned to the park to hike up Ulsanbawi. The weather was much clearer and most of the water and mud from the day before was already dry. Along the way toward the peak we stopped to see some of the Buddhist temples and statues.

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Not a Buddhist statue, but still nice

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The hike was incredibly tiring especially at the end when we had to go up what felt like an endless staircase straight into the sky. There were also parts where we were literally rock climbing with a rope near the top. I don’t think I’ve ever been so tired, not even after hiking up Mt. Snowdon in Wales, but the view from the top was unbelievable.

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This is about 1 hour into the hike. Yes, we are climbing to the top of that mountain.

Do you see that red staircase going up the mountain? oh yeah.

Do you see that red staircase going up the mountain? oh yeah.

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We were above the clouds. We sat on one of the highest rocks, all alone, just taking it all in. Koreans love hiking, but we were lucky because the trail wasn’t too packed for a Sunday. Most Korean hikers are super friendly and they kept trying to tell Ellie not to continue because she had her knee wrapped. Their concern didn’t stop Ellie though and her effort to get to the top with a hurt knee was commendable. The whole thing up and back took about 7 hours. It was one of the best summit views I have ever seen.

Finally at the TOP!

Finally at the TOP!

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While in Sokcho, we wanted to hit the beach especially to see the barbed wire they have on the beach to prevent North Korean enemies from coming ashore, but after all of our hiking and nice warm baths, we were too tired and slept in the next day, missing our opportunity to check out the beach because we had to be on our way to Samcheok where we had some couch surfers waiting for us around noon. If ever in Korea, check out Seorakson and Mr. Yoo because both are wonderful.

(Also, in Seorakson there is a cable car option to get to a peak with some caves for those who are disabled, old or just can’t be bothered to get sweaty.)

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4 Responses to “Hiking in Seorakson, South Korea”


  1. 1 Mum Z September 18, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Beautiful photos! I really get a feel for the places you go because of the detailed prose! I love it!!! Keep it up!

  2. 2 Mum Z September 18, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    You are on top of the World!!

  3. 3 365korea September 28, 2009 at 10:18 am

    [www.365korea.com]

    Nice to meet you! I’m a member of 365korea.com
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  4. 4 fitted wardrobes April 9, 2013 at 12:08 am

    I always spent my half an hour to read this weblog’s content everyday along with a cup of coffee.


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